Slippery Road Alert demonstration on the Volvo V60.
Slippery Road Alert demonstration on the Volvo V60.

How to beat the other pandemic: traffic accidents

By Pritesh Ruthun Time of article published Oct 20, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Much has been said and written about Covid-19. For good reason. That pandemic has already claimed over a million lives. However, there is another ongoing global pandemic, one that claims 1.3 million lives year after year: traffic accidents. On October 15, Volvo Cars hosted a webinar to tackle this pandemic, and it profiled exceptional road safety programmes and products from around the world.

The live webcast from studios in Stockholm, Milan, Warsaw, Texas and Tokyo showcased anything and everything from road safety education for children to airbags that replace bicycle helmets.

Malin Ekholm, Vice President of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, kicked off proceedings with a somewhat surprising statement (given the fact that the seatbelt, invented by Volvo 61 years, has saved over a million lives): “Technology is not enough. We need knowledge sharing, collaboration and cooperation.”

This is not to say that Volvo is forsaking technology. “We have introduced a speed cap on all our cars. We’re worried about distraction during driving, and so we want to introduce cameras and sensors that monitor a driver’s eyes and body movements. We’re using technology – but it’s not enough,” she stressed.

It seems that safety experts around the world agree – because the global panel lifted the lid on a number of exceptional projects.

Paweł Kurpiewski, an expert on child safety in cars and collision biomechanics, for instance, is teaching parents all about child seats in Warsaw. “I’m a big advocate of rear-facing child seats for children up to the age of four. Many parents still hesitate because they don’t know that rear-facing child seats are five times safer than forward-facing. Others know but complain about problems such as motion sickness,” he reveals.

Kurpiewski trains child seat manufacturers, sellers, policemen, medical staff and parents. And, on the website fotelik.info, he gives parents practical advice on how to properly secure their children in their cars.

Russell Henk is Programme Manager & Senior Research Engineer at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and he’s created the Teens in the Driver Seat Programme. “It was founded on the premise that teenagers should teach other teenagers to drive. There is evidence that a peer approach can be very effective. The top risks that we focus on are speeding, distracted driving (smartphones and other young people in the vehicle), low seatbelt use, impaired driving from alcohol to drugs and drowsy driving,” he reported.

Federica Deledda, Executive Officer of Italian State Police, also spoke of the need to educate young people. “We think that speaking to young people is a very important preventive measure. But we need to speak their language,” she pointed out. That’s exactly what child educator Mie Shimizu is doing at KidZania Tokyo. “We have created a play programme to educate children about road safety,” she told viewers.

Finally, Fredrik Carling, CEO of Hövding, introduced a fascinating innovation: an airbag that replaces bicycle helmets. It is worn around the neck. ‘It was developed because many cyclists don’t like the idea of wearing a helmet. When it detects an accident, the airbag is activated in 0.1 sec. This airbag is actually more effective than a traditional helmet,” he claimed.

Greg Maruszewski, Managing Director of Volvo Car South Africa, says that initiatives such as these would bode well in South Africa. “The global rate of road traffic death is 18.2 per 100 000 population. The rate in Africa is 25.9 per 100 000 population. This is extremely high. While there are many credible road safety organisations in our country, more can always be done,” he points out.

Volvo has stated that – after already saving over a million lives with its seatbelt – with new and existing safety features it is determined to save a million more lives. It seems as though the company has allies in this regard all over the globe.

Drive360

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